Residents for Uttlesford took control of Uttlesford District Council from the Conservatives after the local elections in May, four months after the local plan was submitted for examination.
Inspectors wrote to planning officers at the authority this week to note that Residents for Uttlesford has raised a series of concerns about the plan. They have argued that there is a lack of an economic strategy, a lack of financial modelling for new settlements, a lack of evidence to support the spatial strategy, an inadequate transport study, a missing air quality statement, and conflict with the National Planning Policy Framework.
The inspectors said: "These are fundamental objections that go to the heart of the plan’s strategy and which question whether the plan is supported by an adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence base."
According to the letter, Residents for Uttlesford has requested to speak at forthcoming local plan examination hearing sessions. The inspectors said clarification will be sought as to whether those speaking are representing the council or a local community group.
"At the start of the first hearing session, we will ask the council to confirm whether it continues to think that it has submitted a plan which is sound and ready for examination and therefore, whether it still supports it," the inspectors said.
The inspectors have requested that the council confirms its position on the submitted plan by 27 June. "If the council no longer supports key aspects of the plan it has submitted, the appropriate action would be to consider withdrawing that plan from examination," they said.
Residents for Uttlesford councillor and newly elected leader John Lodge said the party was still considering its position on the local plan but would respond to the inspectors before 27 June.
Dan Starr, vice chair and co-founder of Residents for Uttlesford, said: "The local plan inspectors have asked a highly relevant question. In fact, we would be surprised if they hadn’t. Anyone who has been following the Uttlesford Local Plan through its tortuous and expensive history that will know that R4U does have concerns about the soundness of parts of it.
"With respect to the local plan and its upcoming examination, our councillors are still to decide. They are seeking advice from officers and legal experts on the plan and the best way to protect Uttlesford from the developer-free-for-all that has been going on for a decade. Once they have done that, they will write back to the planning inspectors."
Last month, speaking about the plan, Lodge told Planning: "On the one hand, we could start again and do the job properly," he said. "The problem with that is that the area would be exposed to predatory applications from developers."
On the other hand, he added: "We could say that we don’t like the plan and it’s not perfect, but we’re going to have to get it through the inspector at some stage. Hopefully, we could get it right by working with the inspector."